Curaçao Now Targets End-Of-Year Gambling Reform

May 16, 2022
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​​​​​​​The Curaçao government is promising a long-delayed reform of gambling legislation to fix what an independent body calls “shortcomings in regulation” by the end of the year.

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UPDATE 9:30am - Added comments from COGA

The Curaçao government is promising a long-delayed reform of gambling legislation to fix what an independent body calls “shortcomings in regulation” by the end of the year.

The Caribbean Body for Reform and Development (COHO), which deals with reform in Netherlands-affiliated Caribbean countries, has outlined proposed changes to 1993 legislation that Curaçao is hoping to implement in the fourth quarter.

The Curaçao government missed two deadlines last year to propose and enact gambling legislation.

It is apparently also behind on a target it mentioned as recently as December, as it unveiled a planned registration system, to have legislation in place by the second quarter of this year.

At that time, the finance ministry said it was considering proposals to temporarily exempt current licensees from having to apply for a licence right away, to “safeguard the business carried out by these parties, as far as they are being operated legally”.

The package envisions the creation of a new regulator called the Curaçao Gaming Authority, which will succeed the Gaming Control Board. That board has historically regulated land-based gambling and anti-money laundering issues, but not online gambling.

Some of the changes will be by legislation, others will be by national decree, to make them “future proof”, the COHO document said.

An earlier attempt at reforming the law "failed because the government had refused to include the sector in the process," said George Bergmann, a spokesperson for the new Curaçao Online Gaming Association (COGA).

"But since the current minister of finance took office and under his guidance, all stakeholders have come together to cooperate in drafting the new laws. Lacking sufficient knowledge itself, the government made sure to engage the assistance of international industry experts, which has also contributed positively to the process. The project is now in its final stages before it enters into the formal and last phase. It is indeed expected that the law will go into effect by the end of 2022," he said.

Bergmann said he expects fees for operators to rise under the new regime and that a process for existing firms to transition to the new regime could start as early as August.

As a condition for aid, the Dutch government has said it is requiring Curaçao to create an independent licensing body, ensure that licensees follow the law in countries they target and to collect taxes and licensing fees from licensees.

Currently, a master licensee system with sub-licensees means there is no direct supervision of the hundreds of companies with sub-licences, and many are on European and Australian blocklists, and therefore are candidates for website blocking or other measures.

The managing director of the Netherlands Online Gambling Association has said that companies with Curaçao licences are not welcome in the Dutch-focused trade group because there is “no oversight … no consumer protection”.

Sander Dekker, the former minister for Dutch legal protection, acknowledged problems, in a response to parliamentary questions.

“The licence holders established in Curaçao therefore offer illegally in the countries they target if they do not comply with the national laws and regulations in those countries,” Dekker said in December. “The fact that they have a permit in Curaçao does not alter this.”

COGA was created on March 23, with companies that want to apply for the new licences eligible to join, according to a press release.

The trade group said it plans to work with the finance ministry and newly formatted regulator, as well as publish statistics on the impact of the online gambling industry on Curaçao.

It will also “address many misconceptions and inaccuracies levelled at the industry”, according to the press release.

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